Once upon a time…

Beginnings are essential to a story.  I mean, without the beginning, how would you know where to start? Every book would read like the movie Pulp Fiction.

Bad humor aside, getting the beginning to a story right is incredibly important.  Every writer has heard how famous authors have re-written their opening lines twenty or thirty or forty times.  It may seem like overkill, but its not. Go into any bookstore and grab a book at random.  You’ll know with the first sentence if you want to keep reading.

As I was told at VP : “The first sentence buys the first page.  The first page buys the first chapter.  The first chapter buys the book.”

So I changed the opening to Genie Memories.

OLD
“Kill him.  Forgive him.  I don’t much care.  I’m just offering you a chance, Theo.”

This isn’t a bad sentence.   It hints at conflict.  Conflict is essential in stories.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen for another eighteen pages.  That aside, you do find out the main character’s name (Theo) and that there is some sort of history (the ‘forgive him’ bit).  But you don’t know who is talking or who ‘him’ is.  Another downside is that this was opening with dialogue.  People have mixed feelings on this.  Some say “No”, some say “Yes”.  I think it comes down to if you’ve got a strong opening.  In my case, I wasn’t positive I had the best.

NEW
I flipped the power switch on the generator and waited to kill a Genie named Barry.

Is this better? Maybe.  To start, it’s not dialogue so that whole argument goes out the window.  You also know there is going to be conflict right away.  That was one thing people stated to me consistently – the fight scene between Theo and Barry needed to happen right away, not eighteen pages in.  And hopefully, the reader is going to wonder ‘What is a Genie and why is it named Barry?’.  Does this buy the first page?  I hope so.

Of course, the first page has to be worth reading too. In my case, the material I submitted to Viable Paradise wasn’t too bad but I discovered I was telling the reader far more than they needed to know. I’m not sure they would have gotten all the way through the first chapter.  For example, there was a lot of back story that was thrown in for the reader’s sake.  There’s no reason the characters should have been talking about that so I removed it.  I’ll work it in later, when its appropriate.

No doubt, everything will change again before it’s complete, but it’s a good start and I’m pretty happy with it.  So for your pleasure, here’s the magic of revision:

  • Old Chapter One: 4558 words
  • Old Chapter Two: 3460 words

In revision, Chapter One was broken into two.  Chapter Two became the new third chapter.

  • New Chapter One: 1125 words
  • New Chapter Two: 1400 words
  • New Chapter Three: 2682 words

Combined, the three chapters are 5207 words.  That’s about 2 pages longer than the original Chapter One.  Not too bad.

I think that’s a good beginning.

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